Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jessie Mae Hemphill (1923-2006)

photo by Steve Gardner
Let’s hear it for Ms. Jessie Mae Hemphill – a self proclaimed cowgirl, a pistol packing mama, a raw, gritty, talented northern Mississippi hill country blues singer and multi-instrumentalist. We hold her in high esteem over here at nakedcowgirl vintage. Though her commercial heyday was in the 1980s, Jessie Mae has played music most all of her life – she started her musical career when she was a young gal playing drums in a fife & drum band at local parties and picnics throughout the Mississippi hills. At around 8 years old, she learned guitar from her grandfather, Sid Hemphill, a blind band leader & multi-instrumentalist, who was renowned throughout the region, and was first recorded by Alan Lomax in the 1940s. He is certainly worth checking out as well; his rendition of John Henry is one of the best I’ve ever heard. Jessie Mae definitely inherited her grandfather’s raucous, happy, primal style of playing. The rhythm she establishes with her electric guitar (played in traditional Delta fashion) and a tambourine attached to her ankle, not to mention her distinct voice, is impossible to resist. Have a listen and see if you can keep from getting down.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mississippi blur

blues trail marker for Charley Patton, king of the Delta blues. Read more about Patton's life here in R. Crumb's comic book retelling.
romping around Charley Patton's graveyard looking for his tombstone, which unfortunately we did not find. However, a friendly dog hung out with us the whole time, which made me wonder if perhaps he was C.Patton incarnate.
Chuck, Ma, Mikey, hanging on the porch. Clarksdale, MS.
our amazing wedding photographer and now lifetime buddy, Austin.
dang, it sure is hard to get a close up photo of an armadillo. they're faster than you'd think.

sunset on the Mississippi river
a replica cabin similar to Muddy Water's birthplace. Rolling Fork, MS.
Evidently the Mr. and I don’t know how to use a point and shoot film camera, as most of our photos taken with this camera turned out blurry.  Despite the blur, I can still appreciate (and actually like) these photos that convey those special languid moments spent in Mississippi - exploring old graveyards of famous bluesmen, watching the remarkable big red sun go down, trying to get a glimpse of the elusive Armadillo, and rocking on the porch. Is there anything more relaxing than rocking on a porch?

We haven't got our wedding photos back yet, which is too be expected since it was only about a week ago that we got hitched, but when we do I'll be sure to share with you our happy story.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


an old juke joint in Bentonia, MS, where once upon a time one might have found Skip James singing and playing the blues.
It is my supreme pleasure and with a big ole’ heart that I bring you some of my favorite photos (in no particular order) from my recent Mississippi road trip. There's a lot of them, but I'm certain you will enjoy a peak at this beautiful region filled with open (much akin to my own personality) and hospitable folks, a land where you can feel the ghosts, where tupelo and cypress trees grow in swampy waters, where moss drapes the trees, where the big red sun hangs over cotton fields, the land where the blues began, and the land where I got married! That's right - we had a shotgun/surprise wedding (me being the one surprised) in Clarksdale, Mississippi,on the 4th of July. But I'll need to elaborate on the wedding and how awesome Clarksdale is in another post. Hope ya'll are even half as happy as I am!
My bestie, Desiree, leaping in Clarksdale, MS.
tupelo trees, along the Natchez Trace.
more Tupelo trees
Port Gibson, MS.
Skip James blues marker, Bentonia, MS.
graveyard in Holly Ridge, MS.
The Rev. John Wilkins and his daughters performing at the Mississippi Hills Blues Picnic, Holly Springs, MS. They were so good; I danced their whole set.
Rocky Springs, MS.

Canton, MS, where O Brother Where Art Thou was filmed. The old buildings are breathtaking, but it's a shame that most of the businesses are out of commission.
Canton, MS.
Natchez, MS.
Abe's BBQ, Clarksdale, MS. We ate red tamales, pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, coleslaw, and it was all Dynomite!
Clarksdale, MS.
Bentonia, MS.
Clarksdale, MS.
Mikey and Desi
inside the Rock and Blues Museum (amazing!), Clarksdale, MS.
Clarksdale, MS.
Mississippi treasures: Rev John Wilkins cd, William Faulkner's 50s edition of "Mosquitos", Leadbelly portrait.
crepe myrtle trees covered in moss. Natchez, MS.

Natchez, MS.
Stax Records, Memphis, TN. There are some Memphis photos in the bunch too, as this is where our trip started. We loved Memphis too, though we'd both been there before to visit Graceland.

Club Ebony, a juke joined now owned by B.B. King. Indianolo, MS. Can you believe it - we ended up catching  B.B. King perform at  his yearly homecoming festival in Indianolo. He's definitely getting older, but man, he was so happy on the stage, like a big beatific buddha. The whole town came out to see him. He had the kids come on the stage for a dance contest.
Mikey and Desi, groom's gal and bride's maid respectively. Clarksdale, MS.
Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, MS.
Elvis' boyhood church. Tupelo, MS.

Johnnie's Drive-In BBQ, where Elvis used to eat cheeseburgers. Tupelo, MS.
Memphis, TN.
Memphis, TN. The Arcade Restaurant in the oldest diner in Memphis. The film "Mystery Train" was filmed here.
Memphis, TN
Big oak tree, a common sight, Natchez, MS.
Huge porches, another common sight, Natchez, MS.

Camera from Pete's stepdad, so I guess my step dad in law, dress from my girlfriend Miro. Natchez, MS.

Natchez, MS - oldest settlement in the Mississippi. We stayed in a huge home from the 1840s (not pictured here) and we were the only guests.I don't know how we get so lucky.
Natchez, MS.
Natchez, MS.
Windsor Ruins, Port Gibson, MS.
Rowan Oak, Oxford, MS. home of the wonderful William Faulkner. I'm on my 5th book by him, so it was a delight to visit Rowan Oak. My favorite books so far have been "As I Lay Dying" and "A Light in August."

If any of my readers have any questions, I'm always happy to answer in the comments. Many more posts on my Mississippi road trip in the near future.

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